By The Canadian Press - Monday, April 29, 2013 - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – After weeks of public outcry over the scarcity of Canadian jobs, the…
OTTAWA – After weeks of public outcry over the scarcity of Canadian jobs, the Conservative government delivered a pink slip Monday to a series of controversial changes it made last year to the temporary foreign workers program.
Employers will no longer have flexibility to set the wages for foreign labour, calling a halt to what was known as the 15 per cent rule, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney told a news conference.
That rule allowed businesses to pay foreign workers up to 15 per cent below median wages, if that’s what they were paying Canadians.
The Conservatives are also calling a temporary halt to a program that fast-tracked the ability of some companies to bring in workers from outside Canada through what’s known as an accelerated labour market opinion.
The two changes are part of a broader overhaul of the temporary workers program that also includes stricter rules for applications, new fees for employers who apply and a promise of stricter enforcement.
Some elements of the overhaul were announced in the March budget, but the program review has taken on greater political urgency for the Conservatives in recent weeks in the face of weak job numbers and a high-profile case of potential misuse of the foreign workers system involving The Royal Bank of Canada.
The 15 per cent rule and fast-tracked application process were introduced with much fanfare last year as a way to keep Canada’s economy humming.
Kenney insisted both were just pilot projects.
“It is a paradox that we get from some interest groups — constant pressures suggesting that the program is far too lax, and then from many, many employers and industry groups suggesting the program is far too rigid,” he said.
“And we tried to respond to some of those concerns.”
But the concerns of Canadians have been mounting as well.
Earlier this month, it was revealed that the Royal Bank contracted a supplier to provide IT assistance, which resulted in the bank outsourcing some Canadian jobs.
Questions were raised about how the supplier brought its own employees into Canada under the temporary foreign worker program so they could be trained at RBC branches.
And last year, a mining firm came under scrutiny for being approved to bring in foreign labour by claiming the ability to speak Mandarin was an essential requirement of the job.
“We understand why Canadians are asking questions, and quite frankly, our government shares their concerns,” said Kellie Leitch, parliamentary secretary to the minister of human resources.
“The program was never intended to displace Canadians.”
Critics said the 15 per rule was partially to blame, as it allowed the import of cheap labour and meanwhile, the fast-tracked application processes were never policed to ensure they met the rules.
The Conservatives have made a mess of the entire program, the New Democrats charged.
“This is not the first time the Conservatives have said they wanted to fix the program,” said NDP human resources critic Chris Charlton.
“This is the latest example of them acting only after they got caught.”
Kenney said he knows employers won’t be thrilled by the changes.
“Our message to them today is don’t just double, but triple your efforts to hire and train available Canadians for the work,” he said.
“This will affect their businesses but we’re sending a message that Canadians want them to send: do everything you can to find Canadians first.”
Reaction was swift.
“What is being proposed by the government today is not in the interest of Canadian business,” the Canadian Chamber of Commerce said in a statement.
“It’s frustrating to see Canadians underemployed. It would be worse to see whole communities damaged because a key employer relocated elsewhere.”
In 2012, some 213,516 people entered Canada via the temporary foreign worker program, more than three times the number admitted a decade ago.
Put another way, the private sector brought in 25 per cent more foreign labourers last year than the number of economic immigrants accepted by the government, which has long insisted caps on its own programs are necessary so as not to flood the Canadian labour market.
Two of the seven changes announced to the program Monday appear directly related to the recent controversies.
One will add questions to employer labour market opinion applications to ensure that the program isn’t used for outsourcing of Canadian jobs; the second ensures only English or French can be used as language requirements.
The changes will also increase the government’s authority to revoke work permits if the program is being abused.
The government says it will also ensure employers who use foreign labour have a plan to switch to a Canadian workforce over time.
The changes also allow the government to charge employers a fee to bring in foreign labour rather than have taxpayers absorb the cost of the program.
The government spends approximately $35.5 million per year processing applications, at a cost of approximately $342 per application, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada told a pre-budget briefing earlier this year.
The seasonal agricultural worker program and the agricultural stream of the foreign workers program will be unaffected by the changes.
The government said there are proven labour shortages in this industry and the unfilled jobs are temporary.
Opposition politicians have argued that the growth and alleged abuse of the program pokes holes in the Conservative government’s claim to have created thousands of jobs in Canada since the 2008 recession.
In a report released Monday, the Alberta Federation of Labour said that in 2010, Alberta’s economy lost 8,600 jobs but at the same time, 22,992 foreign workers were allowed in.
Three out of every four jobs created in Alberta are filled by foreign workers, said Gil McGowan, the federation’s president.
“It’s clear to us that there is a huge and growing disconnect between what the Harper government says this program is supposed to be about and what it’s actually become,” McGowan said.
By The Canadian Press - Monday, February 4, 2013 at 9:27 PM - 0 Comments
VANCOUVER – The company under fire for hiring temporary foreign workers for a northern…
VANCOUVER – The company under fire for hiring temporary foreign workers for a northern B.C. coal mine is dismissing allegations that it ignored the resumes of several Canadian applicants who were qualified to do the job.
HD Mining issued a statement Monday saying documents filed in Federal Court last week by two unions challenging its hiring of about 200 temporary foreign workers for the Murray River coal project near Tumbler Ridge, B.C. are “not accurate.”
In their submissions, the unions pointed to the resumes of workers who didn’t get an interview despite having decades of experience.
“The information released so far is only the unions’ position,” said HD Mining in an email to The Canadian Press, noting the company will be challenging the unions’ submission.
Within hours of the company’s statement, a resident of Sudbury, Ont., who said he has worked in the mining industry since the 1970s, said in an interview he didn’t even receive a phone call after applying numerous times to HD Mining since 2011.
“We have lots of underground experience in Canada. Lots,” said Donald Donaldson.
“I find it very frustrating, that, you know, no Canadians were even given the opportunity, yet we had to resort to going and bringing in foreign country (workers) which we know don’t have a good safety record.”
A judicial review of Ottawa’s decision to issue the temporary foreign-worker permits has been tentatively set to be heard in April, while the case has also prompted a federal review of the temporary foreign worker program.
The company said it and the federal government will respond to the allegations made by the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 115, and the Construction and Specialized Workers Union in Federal Court by Feb. 15.
HD Mining also reiterated its argument that no other mine in Canada is currently using the methods it plans to employ at Murray River.
HD Mining plans to use a technique called long-wall mining, in which coal is extracted along a wall in large blocks and then carried out on a conveyor belt.
“HD Mining will be using technology that will open up other opportunities and jobs for Canadians and is working on developing a training program with Northern Lights College,” the company statement said.
The company said it needs the temporary foreign workers to complete a bulk-sample phase of the project, which will determine the mine’s viability, but if they can’t be used, there will likely be “no work for Canadians” on the above-ground jobs.
The company announced recently it was sending 16 temporary workers who had already started work on the prospective project back to China because the firm was concerned about the ongoing litigation and associated costs.
HD Mining also said it had decided not to bring any more workers to Canada until it had “reliable certainty” on the project.
The company has consistently argued that it made significant recruiting efforts but still turned up empty-handed.
HD Mining is a partnership between Canadian Dehua International Mines Group Inc. and Huiyong Holding Group, which is based in China.
By The Canadian Press - Sunday, February 3, 2013 at 7:55 PM - 0 Comments
VANCOUVER – A mining company that was granted permits to bring 201 temporary foreign…
VANCOUVER – A mining company that was granted permits to bring 201 temporary foreign workers from China rejected multiple Canadian applicants who had exemplary qualifications, including one person with 30 years experience, say two trades unions after reviewing hundreds of refused resumes.
The unions have been fighting HD Mining in court over the firm’s insistence there was never a supply of qualified or interested Canadians in doing the work at the Murray River coal project near Tumbler Ridge, in northern British Columbia.
The labour groups say Canadians should have had the first rights to such jobs, disputing the firm’s claims it was forced to get permission to bring in temporary workers.
Now the unions contend they have documents that validate their assertions.
“Clearly the evidence after reviewing these resumes support what we’ve been doing all along and clearly there were qualified Canadians who should have had an opportunity at these jobs,” said Brian Cochrane, a spokesman for the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 115.
“It appears that some of them didn’t even have an opportunity for an interview.”
The engineers’ union and the Construction and Specialized Workers Union spent weeks in legal wranglings before the company agreed to hand over about 300 resumes last month to satisfy a Federal Court order.
The unions, which are more broadly seeking a judicial review of Ottawa’s decision to issue permits to the workers in the first place, say their findings justify the legal challenge.
They filed documents to the Federal Court late Friday outlining some of the qualifications found within the tossed resumes.
One applicant had more than 30 years of wide-ranging and extensive experience in all aspects of underground mining, while another had 20 years of experience, including three as an underground operations supervisor, according to their submission.
Other sample applicants had six years experience, including three in an underground coal mine, while another had completed an “underground miner hard rock common core” certificate. At least three more had three years and experience installing ventilation, operating equipment and specializing in construction, diamond drilling and production.
“(There was) a full gamut of obviously qualified people,” Cochrane argued.
But he said he’s still unclear as to why the company would have found the applicants unemployable.
“That part is hard to determine from my perspective. It just looks like the Canadian applicants were discounted.”
The judicial review is tentatively set to be heard in April.
HD Mining did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
But in a statement last month, its chairman repeated the company’s claim it sought and obtained the permits from the federal government “in the absence of being able to find Canadians qualified and interested to do this work.”
The firm has also argued it made significant recruiting efforts, but still turned up empty-handed.
Last week, the company announced it was sending 16 temporary workers who had already started work on the prospective project back to China, because the firm was concerned about the ongoing litigation and associated costs.
HD Mining also said it had decided not to bring any more workers to Canada until it had “reliable certainty” on the project.
The case has also prompted a federal review of the temporary foreign workers program.
By The Canadian Press - Monday, January 28, 2013 at 11:20 PM - 0 Comments
VANCOUVER – Sixteen temporary employees at a controversial coal mine in northern B.C. are…
VANCOUVER – Sixteen temporary employees at a controversial coal mine in northern B.C. are returning to China because of the company’s concerns about ongoing litigation and its associated costs and disruptions.
HD Mining announced on Monday evening that it has also decided not to bring any more workers to the proposed Murray River coal project near Tumbler Ridge, B.C., until it has “reliable certainty” on the project.
Two unions have been challenging in court the federal government’s decision to allow the company to bring 201 Chinese miners to the community instead of hiring Canadian workers.
“This was a difficult decision for us, but we are very concerned about the cost and disruption this litigation brought by the unions has caused to the planning of the project,” said Jody Shimkus, vice-president of environmental and regulatory affairs for the company, in the media release.
According to the company, the 16 workers participated in underground preparation work on a bulk 100,000-tonne coal sample.
The company did not indicate how much the litigation has cost, nor how the litigation has delayed preparatory work but said it remains committed to the project, noting it will continue work on its housing development and the environmental assessment process.
“But we need to be able to rely on the Canadian legal system — and receive fair treatment from governments — when planning and developing projects,” said Penggui Yan, chairman of HD Mining, in a statement.
“In the absence of being able to find Canadians qualified and interested to do this work, we need to know we can rely on the two-year temporary foreign worker authorizations we received.”
The International Union of Operating Engineers and the Construction and Specialized Workers Union have been challenging a decision by the federal government to issue permits to 201 temporary foreign workers.
That judicial review is slated to take place in April.
The company has argued it made significant efforts to recruit qualified Canadian workers and met or exceeded all the requirements of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada in obtaining temporary foreign worker permits.
But earlier this month, the company reluctantly agreed to turn over to the unions the resumes of hundreds of job applicants who were turned down.
The Canadian Human Rights Commission also rejected a complaint filed by a Chinese miner against the United Steelworkers, over the union’s vocal campaign against the workers.
The worker argued that the union allegations were “likely to create contempt for Chinese persons and in particular Chinese mining workers.”
HD Mining said it will continue to “vigorously contest” the unions in court.
By John Geddes - Tuesday, February 21, 2012 at 11:00 AM - 0 Comments
Since 2006, Canada’s low-wage temporary workforce population has ballooned by 70 per cent
It was the worst imaginable way to jolt Canadians toward noticing that low-wage foreign workers are an increasingly important segment of the country’s labour force. Ten workers, nine from Peru and one from Nicaragua, recruited to fill jobs vaccinating chickens, were killed, and three others badly injured, when their van ran a stop sign and collided with a truck at a rural crossroads in southwestern Ontario. The truck driver, a Canadian, also died in the crash early this month. The accident thrust the reality of who works at the lowest tiers of farming and some other sectors briefly into the news. But even with that burst of attention, the swelling statistics on migrants remain little discussed. When Stephen Harper’s Conservatives won power in 2006, 255,440 foreign temporary workers lived in Canada. By 2010, their ranks had expanded to 432,682.
They are an increasingly diverse group. A changing mix of migrant occupations signals a shift in the way employers rely on foreigners to do jobs Canadians won’t. York University immigration expert Alan Simmons says the rapid growth has come outside traditional farm and domestic work, in industries like meat-packing, warehousing and hotels. Temporary workers now greatly outnumber newcomers accepted for good. From 2006 to 2010, the number of foreigners living in Canada as permanent residents on their way to citizenship increased only 12 per cent, from 251,642 to 280,681, during a five-year span when the foreign temporary-worker population ballooned by nearly 70 per cent.
The two groups enter Canada under starkly contrasting terms. Those admitted as permanent residents are joining family members who are already citizens, or have been selected under a federal points system that values education and a good grasp of English or French, or are refugees. Those allowed in temporarily are accepted only because their employers applied to the federal government to recruit abroad to fill vacancies they couldn’t interest Canadians in at the prevailing wage.